Virtual organisations are made up of the relationships maintained between people across geographical and temporal boundaries. Their members are linked by myriad connections that support both the co-ordination of their mutual activities and the combination of their individual skills so that they can accomplish collective goals. The technologies of 'virtualization' serve not only to permit collaboration where it was formerly difficult or impossible, but they also stand to transform the socio-emotional fabric of the underlying relationships themselves. This paper explores the nature of virtualized relationships in terms of the emotional and strategic aspects of self-presentation, use of communication technologies and trust. We report an Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis of interview transcripts together with an analysis of 'media choice dilemma' diary entries. Our studies show that virtual interaction is characterised by an entangled set of consequential relationships. We anticipated that most media usage dilemmas would be rooted in concerns about compromising a person's social identity. We found that, where choice was not predominantly driven by functional or economic factors, choice was predominantly governed by emotional concerns about personal identity. The emotional concerns of participants are a reference point in their use of media as they strive to project their own identity in a positive way, and to protect their own interests.
|Published - Jul 2005